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Cliftonville and Crusaders keen to avoid a festive disaster

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Cliftonville and Crusaders are working together to ensure that their Boxing Day fixture at Seaview goes ahead without a hitch.

Concerns have surfaced that Reds fans could boycott the clash again if a protest is organised outside the Shore Road venue.

Some local residents have objected to Cliftonville fans walking to the ground along Skegoneill Avenue and in February this year the Premiership clash between the sides at Seaview was postponed when Reds fans were stopped from approaching the venue while a flag protest was staged.

Should the same unsavoury scenes occur on Boxing Day and the long-awaited derby battle is postponed again, Crusaders stand to lose in excess of £20,000.

Both clubs want the game to proceed without any controversy and that means both sets of supporters gaining access to the match in healthy numbers.

Meetings are ongoing between the clubs to ensure the festive showdown kicks off in front of a bumper crowd.

Reds chairman Gerard Lawlor said on his Twitter account yesterday: "Busy morning, some positive and encouraging meetings regarding the Boxing Day fixture at Seaview."

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Any threat to stage a protest outside Seaview on the day of the game will be met with anger by both clubs and both sets of supporters – that's why Reds and Crues officials are keen to resolve the matter with the safety of supporters in their thoughts.

Crusaders, now top of the Premiership table on goal difference from Linfield, travel to Dungannon Swifts this afternoon and are looking serious contenders to wrestle the championship crown off their neighbours.

Tommy Breslin's side host Glenavon with their tails up following last weekend's crucial win over Linfield and Martin Murray has hailed the impact the Red Army had on the side's victory.

"I've always known Cliftonville had great supporters from going to watch games as a kid, but walking out of that tunnel in front of what I would say are the best fans in the League was just unbelievable," he told 'The Red Eye' magazine.

"The fans were a big factor in us getting the three points, so credit to each and every one of them – I just hope it continues!"

Elsewhere, Portadown, who host Ballymena United today, are adapting to the news that Emmett Friars has sustained a serious knee injury.

Friars, who has a torn lateral ligament and cartilage damage, faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Teenage starlet Jordan Stewart's return from suspension is a big boost for Glentoran ahead of their meeting with Warrenpoint Town at the Oval.

Boss Eddie Patterson is hoping his side can bounce back from their disappointing 2-0 defeat to the Ports in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday night.

Patterson was heavily critical of his side's second-half performance but the Glens went into the game on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run and will look to regroup and win again.


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